The end of any long-term relationship is always a trying time. The period of grief engulfed in a seemingly never-ending stream of shock, pain and denial often ends in resolve. But what’s lost along the way? For Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Johanna Samuels it was her identity.
In new single “Why Do I Go There?”, Samuels explores the idea of love and loss whilst regaining a sense of herself. A middle-finger to the idea that “a ‘good’ woman is one that takes up such a small amount of space that their authentic identity is conditional upon what men need.” The song’s lyrics exploring the notion that a woman’s “expression is fine, as long as it comes after the comfort of men. I'm not about that.”
After spending a decade in the DIY scene of her native New York, Johanna moved back to her childhood hometown of Los Angeles to begin work on her current project with long-time collaborator Sean O’Brien (Moses Sumney, The National). First releasing Home & Dry: Told a Lie in 2016, the new follow-up EP Have A Good One (the perfect kiss-off to a former lover) was borne from “an experience during a vulnerable and transitional period last year where I was separating with my partner of seven years and quickly began a new relationship. I had very little identity left in me and wanted to be exactly what he projected onto me. My survival instinct told me to take up as little space as possible but, by the same token, told me that doing so wouldn't be sustainable safety. I find this dynamic so often in our culture.”
Whilst the previously released, downbeat “Supposed To Say” tapped into the rough first stages of a split (“was I supposed to say it was nice to see you today? ‘Cos it was hell”), “Why Do I Go There?” hits a more positive note. Its sound steeped in a cloak of retro-cool. Classic songwriting that hums with the heart-on-sleeve humanity of say, Tobias Jesso Jr whilst carrying the spirit of Laurel Canyon icons such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King or Judee Sill. A timeless sound that talks openly and honestly of the shitstorm that comes with a failed relationship and the fine art of moving on.
When asked about her inspirations, Johanna explains that “lately, on a personal level, I've been so inspired by the women around me who make music unapologetically”. Part of a much needed movement of artists making music they want to make on their own terms, Johanna Samuels pulls no punches.